Whilst I’m sure there are many artistic collaborations occuring in Leicester right now, I’d struggle to think of a union more serendipitous or explosive as Near Miss Company.
Headed up by a symbiotic trio of Lee Allaston (improvising musician/percussionist), Louisa Robey (performer/producer) and Shannon Coote (Choreographer), Near Miss viscerally blur the lines between dance, circus, improvisation and live music.
Coote and Robey worked together whilst at DMU, but It wasn’t until spring 2017 that Robey led an improvisation workshop and first heard the unique spectrum of sound coming from Allaston’s drum kit – a kit that looks like it could be a vehicle from Wacky Races. It certainly seemed like the planets had aligned, with Coote stating in our interview ‘What sound can we use? It was a burning question at that time.’. Then arrives this steampunk percussionist, ready to initiate the combustion of this collaborative engine. It was nice to see Allaston smile at this discussion, not realising until our encounter that this Dance artist duo were in pursuit of a percussive partnership.
Near Miss Company have created two shows to date. The self titled Near Miss and Risk. Performances that both use the company’s trademark style of high energy and dangerous, (but always emphatic) choreography. Robey explains:
‘We wanted to show the ability of the performers in a way that the audience can empathise with…sometimes when people watch a ballet performance [they see this] ethereal being on stage…it’s unattainable. Whereas the way that we set things, its very physical, catching each other falling, rolling, but it’s hopefully done in a way that people can relate to. Sometimes we call it reality dance.’
Reality Dance is accurate. You see their personality, you empathise with their struggle. The loosely set choreography never feels put on, it’s a get the job done approach with sweat and gritted teeth. Dancers leaping and cartwheeling through a five meter skipping rope, the team count down before the lift, accompanied by Allaston’s variety of tumbling crashes and intermittent tingles.
Allaston: ‘If Risk is Die Hard then Near Miss is Saw’
Near miss, a seemingly more choreographed piece, uses large beams that swing from the ceiling, narrowly avoiding dancers as they move through a darkly lit space. Allaston sports a head torch and uses a soundbox of his own design to provide scratches, creaks and drones. Luckily for the company, this reality dance has only got too real once in rehearsal, Coote explains:
‘The beam did hit Louisa straight in the face, there was a nosebleed. We were really happy that it was Louisa and not one of the dancers who are quite new to the work.’
It’s certainly a collaboration that has found its language. The company’s approach to performance making results in something rich and satisfying. They create a spectacle that manages to exist between danger and empathy. I had many a flinch but at the same time, I really wanted a go. This is a company to watch out for.